Mobile Data Capture: 5 Tips for Getting Your Field Teams on Board

People often ask me how to get their field teams on board with their mobile data capture projects. For ops and safety managers, it’s easy to see the value of improved data integrity and accuracy, enhanced compliance reporting, and greater workforce efficiency. However, at the field level, it’s sometimes hard for staff to see what’s in it for them. For a successful mobile data project, it’s critical that field staff understand its day-to-day value and don’t view the project as something “those office people want us to do.” Here are 5 tips for making your mobile data capture project a success from start to finish.

Tip #1: Listen and learn how your staff really works.

In your mind, you have a pretty solid idea of what your field staff does every day. You want to improve data accuracy, so your first thought is standardization. If Jane is doing it one way, then Bob can do it that way too. It sounds good in theory, but it can be difficult in practice.

If you have 50 field staff filling paper forms, no matter how cookie cutter your forms are, you have 50 different styles of filling those forms whether you realize it or not. While you aren’t going to meet with all 50 and solicit every idea they have, what you must do is establish a core group of subject matter experts. These key personnel will form your go to team for ensuring everyone else adopts your solution. They know their peers’ challenges with the current solution and they’ll be your biggest advocates when your new mobile solution is ready.

Tip #2:  Engage staff early with your prototype.

Once you’ve found your experts, the next step is to get them involved in the project. I’ve alluded to this in other blog posts, and I’ll say it again here: Your best design decisions are going to come when people are interacting with a prototype of what they’ll actually use in the field—not by reading someone’s 100-page design specification document.

The good news is you don’t need fancy prototyping software or legions of technical writers. Just grab a few sheets of paper, some sticky notes, and a pencil and start drawing. When you illustrate a field staffer asking for a key piece of data and your expert tells you “well if we’re capturing their last certification date, we should also capture their qualifications,” you’ll have discovered that you’re able to capture better, more accurate compliance data than you even knew was available.

Tip #3: Share the benefits of reporting with your team.

A prime benefit a mobile data capture solution is that you’ve got pretty dashboards with all sorts of drilldown charts that improve reporting quality and ensure you’re in compliance. However, your field staff typically sees a very narrow slice of the business landscape. You can change that.

I’ve discovered that anyone collecting data is likely interested in the results of that data. Setup one of those compliance reports to automatically email to your field staff every week. When you do, you’ll get the curious questions which leads to staff engagement and you’re likely to get good ideas that can be rolled into future iterations and projects.

Tip #4: Analyze metrics—and go deep.

It’s easy to instrument a mobile data solution with analytics if you set out to do so from the start. The basics of how long an inspection takes, how many are submitted over time, and how many compliance violations you’re finding over time are likely obvious. But you can go a level deeper looking at in-app or in-form analytics.

For instance, if you analyze how long it takes between the time the last question on an inspection form is filled and when the form is signed by a facility representative, you might find out that your inspector is simply too far away from where they need to be at the end of the inspection. Maybe you can reorder the questions to cut 10 minutes off each inspection leading to greater staff efficiency and productivity.

Tip #5: Iterate, iterate, iterate…

Mobile apps and electronic forms are not meant to be static. It’s all too common to see government paper forms that were last modified in 1953 (not exaggerating!). The benefit of digital transformation is supposed to be that you’ve adopted an easy-to-update system, yet I’ve seen many an electronic form that looks like it was in use when AOL was a twinkle in someone’s eye.

Once you’ve analyzed your data and figured out how your mobile deployment can become more efficient, present that to your experts. Engage and prototype with them again. Figure out if there’s a way to report on even more accurate data. And then roll out a revision.

Bottom line? Get your staff members engaged early and throughout the process. With the right mobile data solution in place and your field staff on board, nothing will stand in the way of your smashing success.


Are you in environmental consulting and want to make the business case for mobility? Learn how to get your budget approved, and more in our new eBook.